The Passenger

‘You do know that your car is freezing, correct?’

         My fingers involuntarily started to strangle the steering wheel and I forced myself to take a breath before I accidentally drove us off the road.

         ‘Yes, Judith,’ I said through gritted teeth.

         ‘Mrs. Blake, if you would,’ she said, nose upturned. ‘You may be marrying my son, but I hardly see why our relationship should be so informal.’

         The leather of the steering wheel squeaked for mercy.

         ‘So?’ she said.

         ‘So what?’

         ‘Your car. Why am I so cold?’

         The icy grip of death, hopefully.

‘My air conditioning is broken,’ I said instead.

‘And you haven’t had it fixed? What’s the problem? Can’t find a cheap mechanic near Morayfield? Tell me,’ she frowned. ‘Have you always been this lazy, or is it just since you met my son?’

I calmly looked up at the rear-view mirror, checking there was nobody behind me, then slammed my foot down on the brakes.

         Judith – Mrs. Blake – let out a satisfying squeal as she rocketed forward in her seat.

         ‘Are you mad?’ she screamed at me, once she’d recovered. ‘I could have been killed!’

         ‘Listen, Judy,’ I smiled coolly. ‘My aircon has been broken for a few days now because I’ve been too busy ferrying you around town to your appointments to find a mechanic near me that can do a car air conditioning service. I’m not lazy – I’m an indentured servant!’

         I twisted back to face the road and took my foot off the brake, slowly bringing the car back up to speed. Judith still looked shocked – though from the braking or my speech I wasn’t sure.

         We drove in silence for a few minutes, and I briefly wondered if I’d given the old woman a heart attack.

         ‘I, uh…’ she finally said, coughing into her handkerchief to clear her throat. ‘I may know somebody. For your air conditioning. A reasonable man.’

         ‘Thank you,’ I said, stiffly. ‘I would appreciate that, Mrs. Blake.’

         A beat passed, until she let out a huge sigh, collapsing back into her seat.

         ‘Oh, just call me Judith.’